Synthego adds $100M from RA, Wellington, 8VC in pursuit of 'virtualizing biology'
The Peter Thiel-backed, Jennifer Doudna-advised, SpaceX engineer-founded CRISPR platform company just added a new mega-round.
Synthego announced $100 million in Series D funding led by Wellington Management, RA Capital Management and 8VC. The company’s second $100 million-plus round since 2018, the new cash will help Synthego advance its platform of CRISPR assays, screens and engineered cell lines.
For several years, they’ve been helping academic researchers and companies run tests and experiments that require gene editing, but CEO Paul Dabrowski said he wants to use their more recent and future funding to push the company to a far more ambitious goal, one that the former SpaceX engineer couches in terms reminiscent of an a16z blog post: “virtualizing biology.”
Mainly, though, what Dabrowski means is that they’ll not only provide people with the tools to run CRISPR and cell therapy experiments, but in many cases fully run the experiments for them.
“This idea of virtualizing biology: In the tech world, you have cloud server infrastructure. Amazon Web Services is, like, a thing. You would never try to build out your own infrastructure of servers and maintain all of that. You just swipe your credit card and go, and you focus on your content, your website, your media,” he told Endpoints News. “And I foresee this becoming a reality probably within the next 5-10 years, where scientists get to focus on their domain, their biology, their cell models, their disease areas and they don’t have to worry about the underlying difficulties of doing the experimental work.”
Partially that would mean just doing the work of a specialized CRO. But Dabrowski says Synthego has been focusing on standardization and scale, building out predictability software and an automated factory that would make them far more efficient than companies or researchers could be on their own. It’s a similar goal to the one Vium, the digital vivarium recently purchased by Recursion, put forth for general in vivo research.
“The expectation is that the turnaround times keep getting shorter, the success rates get higher, and ultimately this whole thing becomes — you swipe your credit card and go,” he said.
Since the 2012 launch, Synthego has expanded from largely providing CRISPR guide RNA to a suite of options, most recently adding capabilities to edit iPSC stem cells line on a large scale. During the pandemic, they’ve aided several efforts, most notably an analysis of how SARS-CoV-2 proteins interact with human ones that was later published in Nature. And they provided guide RNAs for Sherlock’s CRISPR-based diagnostic.
Dabrowski said more tools are in the works and will be added in the near future. An IPO might be in the cards as well. For the ultimate goal, though, he said the company is proceeding cautiously.
“This next step of, can I just do this whole experiment for you?” he said. “That’s a little bit of a leap, both in terms of trust and faith, so we need to make sure we approach that correctly.”